For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well (Psalm 139: 13-14 ESV).
The perception of your value and competence is crucial to how you deal with challenges and your capacity to handle stress. If you value yourself and have a realistic sense of your abilities and competence, you are likely to feel good about yourself. This will help you confidently deal with stress. Most people’s feelings and thoughts about themselves fluctuate somewhat based on their daily experiences. The grade obtained in an examination or how friends and acquaintances treat you, may all have a temporary impact on your well-being. Your self-esteem, however, is something more fundamental than did usual “ups and downs” associated with situational changes. For people with good basic self-esteem, normal “ups and downs” may cause temporary fluctuations in how they feel about themselves, but only to a limited extent. In contrast, for people with poor basic self-esteem, these “ups and downs” may make all the difference in the world.
Now, what is self-esteem? Self-esteem is defined as the experience of being capable of meeting life’s challenges and being worthy of happiness. This definition emphasises the sense of competence and worthiness, and the relationship between the two. The sense of competence here is a reference to the confidence that a person has of being capable of producing desired results, a conviction in his ability to think as well as to make appropriate choices and decisions. The worthiness component of self-esteem is more than feeling good about oneself. It reflects on how a person lives up to specific fundamental human values, such as finding meaning in life that fosters human growth and making commitments to them in a way that leads to a sense of integrity and satisfaction. Self-esteem, therefore, may be viewed as a person’s overall judgement of himself about self-competence and self-worth based on reality. The value of this definition is that it helps to make a distinction between healthy self-esteem and unhealthy self-esteem. A sense of personal worth without competence is just as limiting as competence without worthiness. A strong sense of worthiness prevents competence from becoming arrogance by keeping the individual focused on fundamental values and competence prevents worthiness from becoming narcissism by requiring good feelings to be earned, not given.
The presence of low self-esteem may not be easy to recognise. There are about three faces of low self-esteem that have been observed.
- The Fake: He acts happy and successful, but he is terrified of failure. He lives with the constant fear that he or she will be “found out.” He is the one that needs continuous success to maintain the mask of positive self-esteem which may lead to problems with perfectionism, procrastination, competition and burn out.
- The Difficult: He acts as if the opinion of others does not matter. He lives in constant anger about not feeling good enough. He continuously needs to prove that others’ judgement and criticism do not hurt, which may cause him to blame others excessively, break the rules or laws, and fight authority.
- The Loser: He acts helpless and unable to cope with the world and waits for someone to come to his rescue. He uses self-pity or indifference as a shield against the fear of taking responsibility for changing his or her life. He constantly looks to others for guidance, which can lead to such problems as lacking assertiveness, skills, underachievement, and excessive reliance on others in relationships.
There are other signs of low self-esteem. These include:
- Thinking about yourself a lot and why you are the way you are.
- You do not smile easily.
- You stay by yourself and prefer being alone than meeting new people.
- You keep people away and have trouble keeping and maintaining friends.
A person with low self-esteem may create adverse effects and in extreme cases can be antisocial and even violent. Some people lacking in self-esteem think that with wealth, fame, or good physical looks, people would think better about them. There is nothing further from the truth. In today’s world, there are celebrities who possess physical beauty and millions of adoring fans but still cannot get through a day without drugs. They live with severe anxiety and depression. Good looks, popularity, and wealth guarantee nothing if one does not have the self-esteem to support it.